Madrid: Outgoing Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has given his backing to his successor, Tito Vilanova, joking that there is no chance that he will have to return to Camp Nou in six months` time.
When the former Spain international announced in April that he would stepping down at the end of the season, it was initially thought that Athletic Bilbao boss Marcelo Bielsa would be named as his replacement.
However, the Blaugrana instead turned to current assistant coach Vilanova, and Guardiola believes that the club has made a shrewd choice.
"Tito will do well," the 41-year-old told reporters at a press conference on Thursday. "I won`t have to go back in six months or anything. In November I had dinner with [sporting director Andoni] Zubizarreta and was asked if I thought Tito was someone who could lead the team.
"I told him that I believe he would offer everything I would want from a coach of Barcelona. Tito has helped me to be the coach that I am now over the past five years."
Guardiola was speaking on the eve of his final game in charge of Barca, the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao at the Vicente Calderon.
The Basques still appear to be coming to terms with their demoralizing 3-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the final of the Europa League, a result which reduced several players to tears, but Guardiola expects Bielsa`s side to be back at its brilliant best on Friday.
"Athletic are a team that always create chances; they don`t get down," he argued. "This is a final we`re going to have to endure right until the end. Both teams will play to attack and I expect the best team to win. Their players have guts and they will show that in the game.
"When they cried as [Iker] Muniain and Toquero did in the [Europa League final], it was because the loss affected them. With two weeks of rest, I believe we`ll meet the rival that we saw in their games against Manchester United."
The Copa del Rey final kicks off at 4:00 p.m. ET in the Spanish capital.
BDST: 1555 HRS, May 25, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor